Practices that are used by pipeline operators to prevent mechanical damage are examined in this paper. A set of practices specific to pipeline operations is presented. The practices were initially developed by a group of subject matter experts working under the auspices of the American Petroleum Institute and the Association of Oil Pipelines (API/AOPL) Performance Excellence Team. The practices drew upon the work started within the Common Ground Initiative in the late 1990s and continued by the Common Ground Alliance. The practices presented were reviewed again in preparation of this report. The practices build upon practices defined by Common Ground Alliance (CGA), largely by providing greater specificity and ensuring completeness and follow through in communication and documentation. A subset of these practices became the foundation of the standard, API 1166 Excavation Monitoring and Observation. The paper also provides an overview of historical safety performance for the period 1995 through 2003; with a specific focus on mechanical damage related incidents including the additional detail available in the recent change in Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA, US-DOT) Incident Reporting. This period was selected because it represented the time period where there was a heightened interest in preventing damage to pipelines as described above. The large majority of mechanical damage related incidents result in an immediate impact; a small portion occur at some later point in time. Data for the nine-year period indicate that approximately 90 percent of the incidents result in an immediate impact. This is significant in that it underscores the importance of prevention of damage. The experience of hazardous liquid pipelines has shown a continuing decrease in numbers of annual incidents. The experience of natural gas pipelines has not shown a decreasing trend; in fact, it is relatively flat for the period of study. While the heightened awareness and strong commitment to dedication are known to have had an impact on damage prevention through numerous stories and vast experience shared by a variety of stakeholders, it is prudent to be concerned that the performance may be reaching a “plateau”.

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